After several decades of ignoring the connection between obesity and hunger, the government will treat them as one issue, putting “nutrition at the center of all food assistance programs.”  From the Washington Post:

For decades, the government has treated hunger and obesity as unrelated phenomena. But at a news conference last week in Chicago, Tom Vilsack, President-elect Barack Obama‘s choice for agriculture secretary, said he would put “nutrition at the center of all food assistance programs,” a signal that he will get involved next year when Congress moves to reauthorize nutrition programs that support school breakfasts and lunches as well as summer food for children.

“For a long time, we’ve looked at hunger and obesity separately,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the committee that will draft the legislation. “It’s not a zero-sum game.”

It’s about time.

As the article explains, low-income citizens face financial obstacles to healthy food, like fruits and vegetables, leaving this group vulnerable to obesity and other health-related issues.  In comes a non-profit called the Wholesome Wave Foundation:

In the spring, it launched a program that doubles the value of food stamps and fruit and vegetable vouchers of low-income mothers and seniors who use them at farmers markets in Connecticut, Massachusetts and California.

The Wholesome Wave matching grants were an instant hit at the City Heights market in San Diego. On the first day that matching funds became available, sales using government-issued electronic benefit cards soared by more than 200 percent. In subsequent weeks, the line to receive matching vouchers formed at 7:30 a.m., and the available funds were exhausted by 9:30 a.m., just 30 minutes after the market opened.

“We’re not taking away your benefits because you spend them on Twinkies,” said Michel Nischan, a Connecticut chef and president of Wholesome Wave. “But if you decide you want to spend it on fresh tomatoes, you’ll get double your money.”

Should Secretary of Agriculture-Designate Tom Vilsack and Senate counterpart Tom Harkin decide to craft another program like the doubling the value of the food stamps, the Obama administration would see yet another attempt of achieving several goals within one overarching policy (fight hunger, teach nutrition, and save the environment).

This policy, though, is a sight for sore eyes.  This issue is a perfect example of the problem with judgment without understanding.  Many choose to dually judge those “dirty” members of society who are poor and overweight as “lazy,” when there is a clear economic link between the two issues — the less healthy food is, the cheaper it is, and easier to secure.  This policy and general attitude of the administration bodes well for food policy in this country.  I’m excited.

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